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The Matador (2005) « The MacGuffin Men

The Matador (2005)

Published on July 27th, 2011

James wants you to see Pierce Brosnan’s best performance in The Matador

What do you do after being one of the most famous characters in movie history? It’s a tough question. The answer for Pierce Brosnan was to have fun with it. While still most well-known as James Bond, one of his first roles after leaving the legendary franchise was as a hitman named Julian in the 2005 film The Matador, which is what I’m here recommending to you. It was a relatively small movie that did very well at the festivals and with critics but didn’t make a very big splash in the mainstream. Brosnan was nominated for a Golden Globe, which he probably should have won, but lost to Joaquin Phoenix’s portrayal of Johnny Cash, who had just died – and for those of you unfamiliar with awards math: impersonating an artist + recent death= win.

We first see Julian in action in Denver working as a smooth, secretive operator who seems as concerned with getting the job done as with finding women to hook up with after. Shortly after, he is sent to Mexico for another assignment. This is where much of the film takes place and it takes advantage of the bright colours and unique urban areas of Mexico City in order to make this movie aesthetically pleasing. Not only does the film look great, it uses some unconventional visual techniques to develop characters and reveal the story, adding to its unique but successful feel.

In the hotel lobby bar, through a chance meeting and the influence of alcohol (a recurring theme), Julian befriends a quiet salesman named Danny (Greg Kinnear), in Mexico on work trying to close a deal. As I do not want to ruin this film for you, I will simply say that the rest of the follows their unusual relationship.

Julian is certainly not Bond. This is not simply because he has a different name but also because he works in the private sector. He seems like he once may have had the smoothness of a Double-0 agent but is cracking under years of pressure. And this is where most of the comedy and quality drama of this film comes from. Interestingly enough, this film is similar to where the Bond series went after Brosnan left. We are now in the Daniel Craig era of Bond, which made a deliberate effort to update itself for modern audiences. I don’t mean ‘update’ as in a ‘totally ripped off the Bourne franchise’ sort of way, but in the Bond character itself. Craig’s Bond is clearly less invincible, both physically and emotional, than his predeccesors. While Sean Connery could be fired at with machine guns from close range and come away without a scratch, we nearly see Bond die right in front of us in Craig’s franchise debut. He also seems legitimately emotionally concerned about his women now and even questions his fuzzy moral compass. Without spoiling too much of the film, Julian is an all too human version of Bond, having trouble in his work, interacting with other people, handling addiction and living with himself and his career choices.

While the Bond comparison must be made, The Matador is a much different film than anything in the Bond franchise, so don’t expect much action. This is a unique and quirky movie that does provide some action but is more concerned with making the characters rich, at which it succeeds. Marketing this film must have been difficult; the studio’s marketing department couldn’t use the action angle because there probably isn’t enough to fill the trailer. This must be why they chose to go with the comedy angle.

I searched for another trailer because I realize this one makes The Matador look like shit but I couldn’t find one. It starts with “Danny was just a regular guy…,” apparently said by the guy who narrates trailers for Rob Schneider movies. It makes the movie sound like a light-hearted, goofy comedy which is absolutely false. The tone of the trailer is completely off and does not do this very good film justice at all. The Matador has several laugh-out-loud moments but it is certainly a dark comedy that also does drama well when it needs to. Everyone in the film acts competently but Brosnan takes the cake and his performance, combined with great visuals, the way it plays with audience expectations and lots of twisted humour, makes this film well worth your time.


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